This week I was talking to one of my clients who began sharing an “aha moment” that she had just experienced.
My client had recently experienced a situation that was a bit of a struggle, followed by a victory over the situation, and then she received a nice email from a close friend telling her how much she admired her ability to stay strong and carry herself in such a beautiful way at such a time.
Now, most of us have been in stressful situations, places that required us to “keep the faith”, “keep our chin up”, and “keep smiling” (for some of us that also means keep worrying, keep praying, affirming, hoping, and maybe gritting our teeth a bit). And surely (hopefully!) most of us have enjoyed coming out on the other side of the situation victorious! Maybe not so many of us have received a note telling us that we were admired for our courage, bravery, and tenacity (or whatever other wonderful quality helped us through), but I’m sure we would all agree that being noticed and complimented for how we handled ourselves and our situation would be an enjoyable experience. My client would agree….and yet, she also had a bit of an epiphany from this lovely email.
She told me that to her, it seemed suddenly obvious that this email showed her not only how she was viewed by others, but that maybe the ability to continually overcome stressful situations was “her story”…maybe this was how she was continually describing herself.
Hearing this reminded me of a woman I once spoke to who was considering hiring me as a coach. During the first 15 minutes of our conversation she referred to herself as “a survivor” FIVE times.
First, I commented to her that it was wonderful and amazing that she had survived the things she had described. Because truly, this woman had overcome some extremely challenging situations. And then I pointed out to her that she had referred to herself as a survivor FIVE different times in 15 minutes. I commented that it seemed to me that she was making sure the Universe would have to hand her a never ending stream of situations to survive, she related so strongly with that identity. “I am a survivor”, it came out of her mouth so effortlessly. The continual crisis in her life and her ability to survive them all had become her identity.
My client this week told me that when she realized she was being defined by her ability to overcome stressful situations she made a decision to change her story. I applaud that whole heartedly.
We all have life challenges we can be proud that we have overcome. I hear stories everyday about people surviving accidents, diseases, bankruptcy, divorce, loss of income, loss of loved ones, and all manner of devastating circumstances, and I applaud the sheer tenacity of the human spirit in someone that can walk through a hard place to come out on the other side. And yet, we don’t have to let these hard places define us.
Whatever “story” we are telling about ourselves will continually play itself out in our experience. Whatever hard places we’ve walked through, we have surely collected treasure there, and that treasure that we’ve found there can certainly be a beautiful part of what makes us unique.
Some of the things that make me unique are my strong intuition and ability to resolve conflicts gently and communicate masterfully. I use these gifts every day, in my professional life as a coach as well as in my personal life. These things are a part of who I am, I can’t not use them. I acquired these skills and gifts while in a very hard place, and yet I allow these qualities of masterful communication and intuition be a big part of who I am, without having to revisit the hard place over and over as part of my story.
Whatever hard place you’ve been through, recognize that in that place you have most likely acquired something beautiful and valuable. Let that beautiful treasure shine as part of who you are, instead of letting the struggle be what defines you.
Love & Magic,